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City Council candidate Ajit Varma hopes to change Palo Alto's 'anti-business' climate

Original post made on Aug 13, 2020

Crescent Park resident Ajit Varma believes Palo Alto isn't doing enough to support local businesses and encourage diversity. He hopes to do something about it by joining the City Council.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 13, 2020, 8:57 AM

Comments (26)

95 people like this
Posted by Do your research
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 13, 2020 at 10:57 am

Do your research is a registered user.

What is this guy talking about? There are no business taxes in Palo Alto, which is what makes building offices so lucrative for developers. How does making office building EVEN MORE lucrative give any incentive to developers to build housing? How will you eradicate business taxes where our city has none to begin with? We are in the middle of a HUGE affordable housing crisis - this guy's uninformed takes that are purely pro-business will harm Palo Alto residents and worsen our problems.


9 people like this
Posted by merry
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 13, 2020 at 11:04 am

merry is a registered user.

Sounds good to me!


103 people like this
Posted by When will there be enough office?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 13, 2020 at 11:04 am

When will there be enough office? is a registered user.

We already have one of the highest office to housing ratios of any city in the US and some of the lowest city taxes on business in the Bay Area. We are one of only a couple of cities in the entire Bay Area that allows office workers to park in residential neighborhoods. We have a huge housing shortage and every office job added will be another commuter forever. Every office building will be one less apartment building. Developers will always build office when allowed since it is much more profitable. The cause of high housing is because there are more jobs than housing on the peninsula and unfortunately, mixed use does not solve that. Statistically, the majority of people leaving the state are lower income workers, not tech workers. When Mr. Varma says businesses are struggling to stay open its important to differentiate between retail/restaurants (which are struggling) and tech companies (which are doing great). Mr. Varma fails to understand that the concentration of office development on the peninsula is what has driven housing prices higher here and offers to continue to the policies that created traffic gridlock and high housing prices. If you want more traffic, less parking and high housing prices, and upzoning whereever possible vote for Varma.


83 people like this
Posted by No to developers.
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2020 at 11:13 am

No to developers. is a registered user.

Sounds like a total "growther" who wants to destroy quality of life by continuing to overpopulate and pollute this area. We need to elect those that will fight to slow and stop further population growth and restore a balance between jobs and homes while providing clean air, water and open space. It isn't all about money all the time.


81 people like this
Posted by A former Google Guy--Says it all.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2020 at 11:50 am

A former Google Guy--Says it all. is a registered user.

Just like Cormack, it looks like Varma is a former Google guy. Not surprising they both would vote against business taxes. Palo Alto is one of the few cities on the Peninsula that doesn't have a business license tax. Businesses are not paying their fair share of taxes to mitigate the impacts they create on our communities. That's not right. And I know lots of forward-thinking business people who agree with me.

We have too many candidates running who have zero or almost no substantive government experience. Our current Council lacks deep experience (with the exception of Kniss who appears to have slipped into lame duck mode). This matters when dealing with other governmental agencies (which is necessary for almost everything Council does related to transportation, housing, education, social services, you name it. These issues are very complex--and the simplicity of platforms on some candidate web sites says to me that they don't grasp what is necessary to get the work done they say they want to do. I think this is why Mayor Fine is quitting in a testy episode of community blame. He is frustrated. He wanted to build housing and improve transportation--but he has no idea how to work with regional agencies, developers, businesses and mobilize cooperative action to get these things done. (neither does our city manager whom Fine leans on far too much.) Despite his lofty goals and values, his inexperience and lack of working relationships across agencies failed him.

Council experience also matters because we have had so much staff turnover in recent years. With a few exceptions, current city staff has little historical knowledge and is less experienced and skilled than previous staff. One can see this in the comparative quality of staff reports that are being delivered now vs. previous years. Poorly researched recommendations lead to poor decisions when we have a Council that is unwilling or unable to challenge staff.

I have learned a lot by watching the ineptitude of this Council. I voted for some of them. I am now looking for candidates with solid government and private sector experience. I want leaders who are not tied to big tech. Palo Alto's strength is as an incubator economy--which is why many tech companies move out after they grow. They always have...and that's a good thing. It's how we make room and opportunity for the next people with a big idea to move in and do it all over again.

The problems we face--housing, transportation, climate change and, in this moment, Covid and economic crisis- are complex. We need leaders who are critical thinkers, demonstrated fiscal managers, who can navigate the system effectively and bring people together around solutions.

Nothing gets done in a democracy without building consensus...NOTHING. So let's start choosing leaders who can help us choose a shared path and walk it together as a community.


51 people like this
Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2020 at 12:05 pm

ALB is a registered user.

Mr. Varma is used to the wild west zoning laws in Texas. You can have a mansion next to a medieval-themed hotel next to an auto repair garage. Nouveau riche attitude is not what our council or the town needs.


93 people like this
Posted by Old teacher
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 13, 2020 at 12:33 pm

Old teacher is a registered user.

I am amazed that ANYONE would say Palo Alto is not pro-business. I've lived here since 1965 and seen the city gobbled up by business and development interests! Business gets into the council pockets all the time, and they allow way too much development that pushes out small businesses. I will definitely NOT vote for him and I will work against his gaining a seat.


Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North

on Aug 13, 2020 at 3:26 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North

on Aug 13, 2020 at 3:48 pm

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8 people like this
Posted by Gary G.
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 13, 2020 at 10:44 pm

Gary G. is a registered user.

Ajit is a great person, and extremely level headed. Palo Alto is lucky he is running for town council. You don't elect the policy, you elect the person in a local election. There is no question, Ajit is an easy going and approachable person that will be fair to everyone on the issues that matter.


24 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2020 at 12:07 am

Anne is a registered user.

I want my local elected leaders to change Palo Alto's anti-resident, anti-quality of life climate.

We already have a majority pro-development majority on City Council. What's the point of paying a lot to live here if we are overrun with commuters, traffic, noise? I don't want a single new office space built. Varma probably wants to do away with height limits too, so that all of our beautiful western mountain views are obliterated by tall office buildings, as on San Antonio Road. The city name "Mountain View" is becoming a misnomer. We also need a significant business tax on large companies, so that they pay their fair share for the impacts they cause.


29 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2020 at 12:12 am

Anne is a registered user.

I want my local elected leaders to change Palo Alto's anti-resident, anti-quality of life climate.

We already have a pro-development majority on City Council. What's the point of paying a lot to live here if we are overrun with commuters, traffic, noise? I don't want a single new office space built. Varma probably wants to do away with height limits too, so that all of our beautiful western mountain views are obliterated by tall office buildings, as on San Antonio Road. The city name "Mountain View" is becoming a misnomer. We also need a significant business tax on large companies, so that they pay their fair share for the impacts they cause.


5 people like this
Posted by A Concerned Father
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 14, 2020 at 12:28 am

A Concerned Father is a registered user.

I moved to palo alto during the height of the economic collapse in history in 2009. I was attracted to palo alto because of the jobs around here and I was able to walk to work in the past. Now most of the better jobs requires me to commute an hour to work. With Covid19, I am now idle at home doing nothing and wondering how would I be able to survive this with a newborn. For a lot of the wealthier residents, it makes sense to oppose businesses so palo alto remain "authentic" but i think Mr Varma hits the nail by the head. We need to make palo alto great again by attracting more businesses.


43 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2020 at 1:11 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Why attract even more big tech businesses when the current ones are/have been hiring employees and contractors at a phenomenal rate? We've already got twice as many commuters as residents which has caused huge gridlock and competition for housing?

Companies like Uber/Lyft are threatening to leave if they have to treat their gig workers as employees, creating a growing underclass.

How can the roads and transit accommodate more workers?

The growth to date has already cost current residents the ability to go to concerts, events, to visit friends around.the Bay Area in anything like a reasonable amount of time? How much do we have to sacrifice so Big Tech can grow?

I;m curious about who's backing Mr. Varma. Details please.


34 people like this
Posted by Not Pro-Business?
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2020 at 8:47 am

Not Pro-Business? is a registered user.

Mr. Varma,

Have you driven through Palo Alto in the mornings or evenings (prior to the pandemic)? We are so pro-business that if I drive my 2 mile commute can take 20 minutes. I am pretty sure Palo Alto is pro-business and anti affordable housing. Maybe Palo Alto is anti-small business?


8 people like this
Posted by StarSpring
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 14, 2020 at 9:41 am

StarSpring is a registered user.

Zero chance he will be elected with this anti-resident platform.


36 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 14, 2020 at 10:22 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"Zero chance he will be elected with this anti-resident platform."

@StarSpring, I hope you're right but I doubt that. Look at how adamant Peter Thiel, ceo of Palantir and Facebook board member, has been about Silicon Valley growth issues. Look at how Palantir employees came to dominate local commissions here and in Menlo Park and the MTC to say nothing of downtown Palo Alto.

Look at the huge contributions made by the business groups to candidates like Ms. Cormack who had one of the largest campaign chests for her first-time run and by the well-funded YIMBY party with its local, regional and national chapters.

Reporting on who's funding whom is critical in this election.


31 people like this
Posted by mc
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 14, 2020 at 3:47 pm

mc is a registered user.

The big news story during this election will be exposing campaign funding. Who, how much, and what are the donors backgrounds. Developers (current or "retired"), commercial real estate attorneys, etc. etc. Also free advertising and mailings funded by PAC and similar organizations on behalf of which council candidates.

In addition, be suspicious of any candidates that loan their campaigns money. Because they may be following the example of Liz Kniss who loaned her campaign a substantial amount of money which was then paid back by approximately the same amount after the last campaign financial disclosures prior to election day. Also if, like Liz Kniss, they make a campaign promise to voters they will not accept campaign money from developers but then quietly do so.


18 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 14, 2020 at 11:52 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Another anti-resident force to mention has been The Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Regional forces advocate for enormous big tech companies (note my emphasis). Who pays, literally and figuratively: the homeowner, especially Palo Alto homeowners.
Palo Alto has been highly impacted, drained of funds for other uses like transit, then blamed for jobs/housing imbalance.
Within reason, I am grateful PA is viewed as a desirable location. It is!
But why we should add dense offices, traffic then pay for low income dense housing is outrageous.
PA City Council must advocate for residents!
They (state of CA coastal) just may kill their golden goose of longtime tech taxpayers sometime - but meantime we are overrun in the new era with over compensated new vogue tech enployees flogging vapoware, apps, sketchy fintech, (as opposed to legacy tech which is/was substantive), VCs, massive traffic and then BLAMED for this by ABAG, State Senator Scott Weiner, etc.!
How about a reasonable balance and return to reasonable quality of life in the central, desirable cities like Palo Alto?
I advocate for mid-range housing.
I advocate for effective and efficient vehicle routes.
After paying for freeways, we now have to pay for the new toll lanes being installed on 101, high bridge tolls, high every type of taxes and brrrr what are our state legislators doing to solve Covid crusis! Oh, discussibg a “wealth tax,” that will bypass the billionaires owing to loopholes but lift more off of us middle and upper middle class taxpayers.
We need sensible government.
I prefer knowledgeable City Council members such as Mr. Filseth -


16 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2020 at 12:33 pm

Anne is a registered user.

Thank you, Anonymous, for calling out Silicon Valley Leadership Group. I could not agree more. I would add to that list the San Jose Mercury, which never misses a chance to laud SVLG and it's recently retired leader Carl Guardino. Commenters in this space have, in the past, noticed that Carl Guardino could get an hour to plead his case before the Palo Alto City Council, but citizens only get two or three minutes. As well, the Mercury never misses a chance to portray Palo Altans as selfish NIMBYs. South County bias against us is pronounced.


1 person likes this
Posted by M
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2020 at 3:07 pm

M is a registered user.

I believe Mr Varma would bring huge value to Palo Alto and as a member of City Council. His expertise and values would help with the future of our city, long term, especially now. Great guy!


7 people like this
Posted by Gunn Papa
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 16, 2020 at 10:28 pm

Gunn Papa is a registered user.

The Daily Post had a good op/Ed about Carl Guardino a while ago. Apparently, it wasn’t known why he quit his position in the Silicon Valley group. He was making almost $900K per year. It would be nice to know who took over for him this year.


9 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 17, 2020 at 9:56 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Yup. Those anti-resident big business lobbyists are really raking it in for selling us down the river. But salaries like that are mere pittances vs what their clients are saving for the harm they're doing here by pushing the commuter to resident ratio even higher while they doom workers to contractor and "gig economy" status so the few can cash in at the expense of the many.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2020 at 10:48 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Is the problem here the heading on this blog? Is it leading to a conclusion that is not accurate? We have the Stanford Shopping Center which responds to most needs. We have downtown on University and California, we have Town and Country Shopping Center. We have Midtown. Is it the type of business that is the concern? When we have people come from other countries to live and work in the US they want to create the ethnic attributes of their mother country. If we provided ethnic signposts for all of the ethnic groups that live here we would not have our own identity.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 21, 2020 at 6:41 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

What makes PA different? We started out as a University town and built out to our borders early on. Meanwhile the surrounding cities to the south were fields of fruit trees now replaced by companies in the hi-tech world. They keep building and building and expect the surrounding cites to absorb the people they hire. They keep driving the "regional" approach which obliterates the individual city and it's existing city goals. That only works up to a certain tipping point when it all starts spinning out of control. We are continually being pushed now and we do not have the transportation system working to sustain all of this growth. The transportation systems are being used by homeless people and are being trashed.
We have reached a tipping point and need to re=evaluate what our tolerance level is a anchor those levels. As to big tech the SRP is full of it.


11 people like this
Posted by TS Member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2020 at 12:45 pm

TS Member is a registered user.

I suppose Mr Varma will volunteer his own Crescent Park neighborhood, including his own block, to put in some of the new higher density housing he advocates, right?

Also, saying that Palo Alto is anti business is laughable. It sure looks to me like he has not done his homework on Palo Alto before running to be saying such things.


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